Dayton, Ohio is continuing the momentum generated during the buildup for the Wright Brother’s centennial to promote Dayton as the birthplace of aviation. Dayton’s Aviation Heritage Foundation is developing a grand plan to showcase the Dayton region nationally and internationally.
Two major events have occurred that may add materially to the Wright brothers heritage now represented by nine historically regional sites.
One was the transfer of ownership of Hawthorn Hill, the Wrights’ home in Oakwood, to the Wright Family Foundation in 2006. The other is the bankruptcy of the Delphi Corporation that owns the Wright Co. two airplane factory buildings. The buildings may soon become available for inclusion in the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.
The Wright home is a real gem and will be a wonderful addition to the park. The NCR Corp. purchased the home after Orville’s death in 1948 and has kept it in prime condition. Orville and the executives of NCR including John Patterson, founder, Edward Deeds and Charles Kettering were good friends.
The home has never been open to the general public. The home is located in a neighborhood of upscale beautiful homes in Oakwood. The neighborhood has never wanted the traffic, parking problems and noise that an open house would entail.
My wife and I have been in the home several times during Oakwood High School reunions as graduates and other occasions.
Amanda Wright Lane, great-grandniece of Orville and Wilbur, and her brother Stephen Wright, trustees of the Wright Family Foundation are involved in discussions that could result in the transfer of the home to federal ownership as part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.
Lane and Stephen Wright, an Oakwood resident, have also been in discussions with the City of Oakwood and residents to develop a means to preserve the ambiance of the neighborhood and still open the house to the public. One procedure would be to require small groups of visitors to buy round trip tickets at the Carillon Historic Park and take a shuttle to Hawthorne Hill and return. This procedure will start this spring as a trial.
The other historical jewel is the two Wright Airplane buildings located on Delphi property a number of blocks west of the bicycle shop in West Dayton. The buildings were built in 1909/1910 and are still in active use by Delphi Corp. As such they have not been open to the public. I was not even permitted to take a picture of the buildings from outside the fence line.
Delphi, an automotive parts maker, is now in bankruptcy. It lost $5.5 billion in 2006. The two Wright buildings occupy about 10% of the 67-acre Delphi property.
It is hoped that Delphi will make the Wright buildings available for inclusion in the Aviation Park as part of the bankruptcy settlement.
Draft legislation is being proposed for consideration by Congress to include both the Wright home and the factory building in the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. The Dayton-based Aviation Heritage Foundation was created by Congress in 2004 to promote nine regional sites as a National Aviation Heritage Area.
These sites are independently operated and are a diverse mix including the National Aviation Park, the National Museum of the U.S. air Force, the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio and the Wright B Flyer Museum at The Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miamisburg.
The National Park Service owns part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage Park and cooperated with partners that own other portions.
The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical park is also planning to nominate a collection of Wright brothers sites to the U.S. Department of Interior for consideration as a Nationally significant historic site. The site nominated include: Huffman Prairie, a Wright brother’s bike shop now in the national park; Hawthorn Hill, and the Wright Flyer B now displayed at Carillon Historical Park.
The timing may be just right. The President’s 2008 budget includes a big boost in funding for national parks, $2.4 next year. On top of that President Bush wants the federal government to match philanthropic donations each year, up to $100 million.
Note: In an other matter, the February 2, 2007 issue of the News & Observer reported that some folks in North Carolina want to change the “First in Flight” design on state license plates to another “smart and attractive design that would help remind everyone what a special place this is.”